(CN) – A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s third effort at a travel ban, finding it as discriminatory as the first two versions.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson granted Hawaii’s request for a temporary restraining order, which will bar implementation of the travel ban while its constitutionality is sorted out. Watson also blocked the second version of the travel ban on similar grounds.
“Professional athletes mirror the federal government in this respect – they operate within a set of rules and when one among them forsakes those rules in favor of his own, problems ensue,” Watson wrote in the order issued Tuesday afternoon.
Watson said the third iteration of the travel ban contains the same problem of the previous two: it doesn’t address why and how the entry of 150 nationals from the targeted countries would be detrimental to the United States. This amounts to discrimination, the judge said.
“EO-3 plainly discriminates based on nationality in the manner that the Ninth Circuit has found antithetical to both Section 1152(a) and the founding principles of this nation,” Watson wrote in the 40-page order.
Section 1152 (a) of U.S. Code forbids officials who issue visas to discriminate on the basis of race.
The order was hailed by lawyers fighting the travel ban, including Neal Kaytal who tweeted: “In#HawaiivsTrump we have just won. Nationwide injunction on travel ban 3.”
But the White House slammed the ruling in a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying it undercut the president’s ability to safeguard national security.
“Today’s dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” the White House said in a statement. “The Department of Justice will vigorously defend the president’s lawful action.”
After a week in office, Trump signed the first executive order forbidding entry in the United States by citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations including Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Sudan. The order threw the nation’s airports into chaos, causing confusion among customs agents and preventing some permanent residents and green-card holders from entering the United States for days and even weeks.
U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle temporarily barred implementation of the first ban, and the Trump administration subsequently appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
After the Ninth Circuit upheld Robart’s order, the Trump administration opted to revise the travel ban. The president issued the second ban by executive order in March, this time leaving Iraq off the list and targeting six mostly Muslim nations.
But hours before the second edition was to be implemented, Watson blocked it and a new cycle of appeals commenced. This time the Trump administration appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, but weeks before the highest court was scheduled to hear oral arguments, Trump again revised and issued the third edition.
Set to take effect on Wednesday, the latest version barred various types of travelers from Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela. Some legal analysts thought the inclusion of North Korea and Venezuela would be enough to thwart potential legal challenges that the ban was a thinly veiled attack on Muslims, and in fact Watson let the ban on U.S. entry from North Korea and Venezuela stand.
The Trump administration also pointed to a robust study of the immigration services of more than 150 countries and said the ban was based on deficiencies in the security procedures and immigrant screening processes in the eight countries.
But Watson said the study provided little to zero rationale for such broad-based travel and visa restrictions as proposed by the Trump administration.
“The generalized findings regarding each country’s performance do not support the vast scope of EO-3 – in other words, the categorical restrictions on entire populations of men, women, and children, based upon nationality, are a poor fit for the issues regarding the sharing of ‘public-safety and terrorism-related information’ that the president identifies,” Watson wrote.
Criteria used by the Department of Homeland Security in the study was applied arbitrarily, Watson said, noting that Somalia met all the criteria for sharing security information with U.S. authorities but was included in the ban anyway – while dozens of nations that don’t get a pass.
“This leads to absurd results,” Watson said. “EO-3 is simultaneously overbroad and underinclusive.”